(EnviroNews Idaho) — Sandpoint, Idaho — The environmental activist group Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) is protesting a megaload in motion. On Friday Aug. 8, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued a permit for Bigge Crane and Rigging Company to haul the bottom portion of a hydrocracker from Washington, across Idaho, and into Great Falls, Montana. The equipment will ultimately provide a massive increase in tar sands refining capability at its destination site.
The giant hydrocracker breaks down long chain hydrocarbon molecules into smaller components so that they can be made into petroleum products like jet fuel, kerosene and diesel. This machine is set to triple the amount of carbon-loaded Canadian tar sands that the Montana Refining Company owned by Calumet Specialty Product Partners can process.
Following the permit issue, WIRT immediately filed a petition against the movement of the load, which may weigh in excess of 1,000,000 pounds. The petition’s three claims are that ITD “averted public participation,” authorizes a transport that will “imperil public safety, convenience and highways,” and that there is “no necessity and feasibility of the permit or movement.”
This petition was sent with a request that it be acknowledged to ITD, the attorney general and the Federal Highway Administration in Boise.
“They completely ignored our petition,” says Community Organizer Helen Yost, and while ITD spokesman Adam Rush told a local reporter ITD was ready to receive the petition, “they never acknowledged it to us.”
In a press release, WIRT claimed that ITD has violated the 14th amendment.
“They held meetings for other communities but not Sandpoint,” says Yost. “They are extending privileges to some citizens and not others.”
One concern that WIRT has it that this megaload could set a precedent as it travels down a designated scenic byway – one that comes without public comment.
“It could become a permanent corridor,” says Yost. “They need to be reaching out to the citizens.”
Megaloads like the one currently underway can only travel between 5 and 35 miles per hour. When going down a two lane highway, they are required to pull over and let cars pass, which can result in a risky situation with other impatient drivers trying to pass the slow-moving convoy at night when visibility is reduced.
“We consider them risky loads,” says Yost.
The “numerous impacts that they’ve already visited on the region” include road damage, knocked down tree limbs and power lines, and a direct hit to a passenger vehicle that was pulled over by a flagger, according to Yost.
While activists along the route are protesting the movement of this specific piece, ultimately they are protesting the fossil fuel industry and its climate effects on a larger scale.
“Our main concern is that this load is part of a hydrocracker,” says Yost. “We don’t want any more fossil fuel infrastructure.”
She calls for no more refineries, no more extraction and no more fracking. WIRT and its Native American allies including the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) are protesting the transportation of the megaload all along its path to Big Sky country.